Are Some Dogs Geniuses at Learning Words?

Precocious Pups

Both human and dog participants were given a name and toys, and researchers recorded the dogs’ responses, given over one week. The dogs had to say, in about one second, if they recognized the name or a familiar toy. Then, just after a week, they had to identify the new toy by name. The pups were required to answer a single test question after receiving their treats.

The results: Most dogs scored between zero and one point in recognizing and retrieving the names, and they forgot the names within two months. Those breeds that really excelled? Dogs with a combination of high intelligence and social intelligence, according to the study, published in Scientific Reports. (You may be thinking: “He’s only eight weeks old, and he already knows some words?” Ahem.

Putting Genius Dogs to the Test

For the three-month study, researchers at Scotland’s Glasgow University evaluated the memory and cognition abilities of 34 dogs. They trained the dogs using simple toy names, such as Dog, Ball, Ball, and It, to teach them to fetch objects using two different techniques.

First, the dogs watched a series of videos with a trainer. During this process, the trainer would pick up a toy in each video, and shake it. The dog would hear a toy’s name and a toy noise that resembled a name. But before the handler would release the toy, she’d say, “This is ‘Dog!’ Now say ‘Dog!'”

According to the researchers, the dogs’ memory for toy names improved significantly when they practiced retrieving objects by watching videos.

Canine-Human Communication

The study revealed dogs who lived with their owner (as opposed to working dogs or one-time visitors) had an average of 12 new object-name knowledge after one week, while dogs that lived in an apartment or boarding home averaged nine. After the six-week test, dogs that lived with their owners had an average of 16.8 new object-name knowledge, while dogs in a boarding home averaged 12.9. But dogs living with their owner scored the highest for all the tests, with an average of 25.2.

Bad, Bad Bunny

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Is Your Dog a Genius?

The idea is simple. Send in photos of your dog and a list of up to 20 familiar and unfamiliar words to the “Genius Dog Challenge” page on Facebook. A genius dog will earn the label and a photo in a “Genius Dog Book” and $500.

“While a number of studies have been done on word knowledge in humans and chimpanzees, relatively little research has been done on the topic in dogs,” explained Casey Fiester, co-founder of the Genius Dog Challenge, in a press release.

This might be because many dog owners think that because dogs are natural learners, they should be able to learn words. And while dogs are very social animals, they don’t necessarily learn words in the way that humans do.

Learning is easy and fun!

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